Jun 182013

Today I wrote a story for Business Spectator on the Google Loon project, a pilot program to see if high altitude balloons can provide affordable internet access for the developing world.

What really fascinates me about Loon and the projects in the Google X program is the concept of the ‘moonshot’. Google explain it on their solve for [x] website.

Moonshots live in the gray area between audacious projects and pure science fiction; instead of mere 10% gains, they aim for 10x improvements. The combination of a huge problem, a radical solution, and the breakthrough technology that might just make that solution possible is the essence of a Moonshot.

Great Moonshot discussions require an innovative mindset–including a healthy disregard for the impossible–while still maintaining a level of practicality.

Missing in that definition is the concept of risk – it’s easy to propose a radical, audacious solution to a problem when it’s not your money or career on the line.

On the other hand, most organisations that have the resources to experiment with breakthrough technologies stifle any thought of true innovation or radical solutions.

The advantage Google has is that parts of the organisation encourage those moonshots, although there are divisions of Google which are just as bureaucratic and staid as a chartered accountant’s or quantity surveyor’s office.

Interestingly Apple were the reverse with only one guy allowed to do moonshots and everyone below him followed him either to the moon or hell, as this wonderful story tells.

Which brings me to the little folk – the startups, small businesses and backyard inventors who don’t have the resources of Google, Apple or the US space program.

For that matter there’s also the writers, painters, musicians and other artists who are risking everything for their vision.

Everyday these people are risking everything for their little ideas as their homes, livelihoods and sometimes their relationships are on the line for their one big idea or audacious vision.

These are the real risk takers and every day they are taking little shots at the moon.

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